5 Tips for a Happy Nanny-Parent Relationship (From a Nanny)
Working with a nanny often involves an unusual employee-employer relationship. There’s a special kind of intimacy that comes from inviting someone into your family home, and trusting them with your kids!
Having nannied for many families over the past five years, I’ve found that, of course, every family is different, with varying expectations and boundaries. There is no fixed way to interact with your nanny, because your needs as parents will differ from others, just as your nanny’s needs and expectations might differ. The kind of relationship you build is up to both you and the nanny to determine.
Having said that, it’s always important for both parties to feel comfortable, and over the years I’ve found a few fail-safe methods for establishing a healthy working relationship.
Here are five things that parents can do to create and maintain a positive and respectful relationship with their nanny:
1. Establish clear expectations.
A great ground rule for the start of any relationship – be sure to communicate your expectations at the start of the process. Openness and clarity are always helpful for avoiding any misunderstandings down the road. And, if misunderstandings do arise, clear communication will help you to resolve things more quickly.
It’s good to have a clear sense of your needs that you can articulate already during the interview. Does your work or social calendar mean you’re likely to often need last-minute schedule changes? Would you like your nanny to help out with housework, or make dinner for the kids?
Let your nanny know your parenting style. What are the family rules surrounding screen time, mealtime and bedtime? You might find it helpful to put all of this information in writing, or perhaps you're more comfortable talking it through with your nanny. Either way, be explicit in how you want them to care for your child.
Beyond these basic requirements, what does a great nanny-family relationship look like to you? I’ve worked with families where the expectation was for the nanny to really integrate into the family, celebrating milestones together, eating and travelling together. With other families, my only involvement was to make sure homework was done, and playdates and after-school clubs were reached on time. In those cases, my relationship with the parents was polite and perfunctory, which was also totally fine! In all cases, it was so important to establish mutual respect and a clear understanding of everybody’s expectations. Beyond that, there’s no right or wrong way to do this.
2. Keep the lines of communication open.
And, of course, no matter how well you’ve both prepared, new questions will pop up during the settling in period. Be ready to answer questions or concerns from your nanny. Especially if you’re not working from home, you might want to schedule regular check-ins – daily or weekly – to keep up-to-date with what’s going on. Perhaps there’s something in particular you’d like your nanny to keep an eye on, like the child’s eating, or how they’re playing with other children at the playground.
It’s also helpful to figure out early on what the best mode of communication is. Sometimes, for me, that’s meant texting one parent in particular, and sometimes that means a group chat with both parents.
3. Honour commitments.
If both you and your nanny are committed to maintaining a good working relationship, everyone (especially the kids!) benefit. It’s great for kids to have continuity in their caregiving, rather than a series of nannies coming and going. Set the expectation that when there are problems or misunderstandings, you and your nanny will work through them together. The knowledge that both parties are willing to invest time and effort in the relationship will help you both to feel secure and trusting.
One example of showing your commitment is to make clear that you value your nanny’s time. If you’re going to be late home, or need to make any kind of last-minute change to scheduling, communicate this as soon as possible.
4. Facilitate the relationship between the nanny and your kids.
The most fundamental part of facilitating a good nanny-child relationship is to see yourself as working in a team with your nanny. In the same way you wouldn’t undermine your partner in front of your kids, make sure that you’re letting your children know (through your words and actions) that you trust and respect the nanny’s opinion, and that when the nanny’s around, she's in charge. This isn’t to say that you can’t set the expectation that the nanny checks in with you before making decisions (about, for example, whether your child can go on a playdate, or whether they’re allowed to skip out on an after-school club). But – especially now that many parents are working from home – you don’t want to create an atmosphere where your nanny sets a boundary, and your child runs to you to get a second opinion.
There are more fun ways of facilitating the nanny-child relationship from the outset, too – I once worked for a family who involved their kids in the interview process. Once I’d had a conversation with their mother, the kids got to ask me some questions of their own (some highlights: “Do you like the park?” and “What’s your favourite food?”). This felt like a really lovely way to set the tone for our relationship. It gave the kids a sense of control over the process of finding a new caregiver, and it was also great to have a little fun before we were thrown into the daily routine together!
5. Express gratitude
Remember that your nanny spends a great deal of time with your kids. Just as some parenting days will be more challenging than others, your nanny will also go through ups and downs in their work with the kids.
Naturally, in a great nanny-family relationship, the care your nanny will develop for your kids will be deep and genuine, and that care doesn't switch off completely at the end of the work day! For me, that sometimes means that I worry about the consequences of my off-days. A few positive words from you as a parent can make a world of difference, to know that the good work is recognised and appreciated.